July 11, 2011
A White Musk Moment: Il Profumo Musc Bleu
On one hand white musk as a scent relates to a “grounded” sense of body and self, but on the other there is no denying that white musk is a purely chemical confection that has removed the animal aspects of original musk itself, while keeping its quality of enhancing and beautifying the scent of your own skin.
How do other people travel/navigate the olfactory map? To whip around from one scent family or style to another – I know for me even though I’ve been smelling a lot of perfume for the past five years it’s still a voyage of discovery, there is so much out there. There are so many beautiful materials, each one contains worlds and cultural connotations, as vast as continents and populated by many fragrance inhabitants to visit and enjoy. Why not continue to follow my predilections wherever they may take me since going far and wide will only serve to expand my experience and horizons. So now I find myself in the midst of exploring the land of the white musk.
The extremes of NYC summer heat can be difficult for perfume. Sometimes when it's over 90 degrees it burns out too quickly or seems too much even to yourself, let alone those around you, and yet I have been craving white musk lately. The refreshing clean skin quality and its associations with comfort like cotton sheets drying on a line outside in the summer extend an olfactory lifeline to something like the breezes tossing the top-most tree branches around on the less traffic-ed side-streets.
Luckily white musk does indeed enhance the sense of freshness and air movement and general mood uplift like wearing white does. As in any other scent family, there are certain perfumes that step forward immediately to demonstrate a personal affinity.
The one I have been enjoying the most lately is Il Profumo Musc Bleu. It has just enough going on within the white musk to keep it interesting without showing any sweetness or getting overtly floral. It’s like cool shadow and shade protecting your skin from the hot sun, with enough abstract elegance to give it body and depth.
The other musk that truly hits the spot for me, but is stronger and deeper than the Il Profumo is the Bruno Acampora Musc, which I have written about before. (Layer with Acampora Jasmine T for a taste of heaven on earth).
I have been trying the Serge Lutens Clair de Musc, and though it rises to a pure elegance, the subtle florals shine through up into a prettiness that seems too insistent to me right now, because my own mood wants something more skin centered and quite neutral. Montale's White Musk is mild in the way I am looking for too, but also shows Montale's signature distinctive house undertone of a fragrant Middle Eastern ambiance. These are both very pleasing white musks and among the ones I would want to take with me on a desert island should I be called on to do so, but, they are not exactly what I want right now. The Musc Bleu is my perfect white musk, altogether beautiful, smooth, neutral in the senese that certain colors are considered to be neutral, such as white, black, grey and beige. Refreshing, while hitting my olfactory nerve in exactly the right spot. Not sure what this says about me, or my mood exactly, but it is what it is, and I just count myself lucky I hit this rewarding sensual jackpot fairly soon along in my search.
I understand that white musk is a term that covers all the chemical musks, which were bred to be more like clean young skin, leaving aside the animal wildness of the true musk model. As it turns out, the earlier versions of white musks were very appealing but may build up in the system to be in fact unhealthy to wear. These types have lingered in the environment and our bodies to an alarming degree. They’ve been replaced by new molecules, which by their very shape and structure will not cause the bodily problems of the early versions. (See the wiki site for a relatively short and clear explanation about synthetic musks).
Some people want to be careful not to go too close to the tone of the white musks that are added into all the mass produced detergents and fabric softeners. That said I know I am not put off by such in-exclusivity; if it smells good I’m there, whether it be some common fragrant fruit you can bite into or an enjoyable scent that escapes the fabric as you fold and put away the laundry. There are basic musks that are very pleasant and good to have around for layering too.
I find the relatively inexpensive Body Shop White Musk will gently amplify all the best qualities of anything you put beside it, because as we know, that is what musk does and the reason why it is the base of most perfumes. It’s a good one to have around for layering and smoothing.
I do wonder how other people travel around the scent map, so if you have any stories you’d care to tell, please do, either here or at indieperfumesatgmaildotcom. I will put together a few samples to reward one of you.
The way I see white musk is as a form of shade from the hot sun in aromatic form, a simple pleasure. I’m glad to have found these, especially the Musc Bleu, exactly when I need them the most.
Above photo by me, the simple pleasure of a shaded sidewalk on a hot day.